It was Howard Pyle’s, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (1883), that inspired today’s modern version of Robin Hood, a good-hearted, rogue-styled philanthropist.
My family and I recently attended the Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade, Texas, roughly 50 minutes east of Austin. This is not my first rodeo of fantasy inspired gatherings. I love going to these fairs, be it Scarborough Renaissance Festival, which occurs annually outside Dallas, or the mighty Texas Renaissance Festival (Ren-Fest for short), just outside of Houston, I never fail to feel amazement by the sheer volume of dedication to the theme. The workers and attendees alike dress to the nines of their period intended costumes.
Sherwood is by far the simpler or smaller of the fairs, but no less dedicated. A person’s need to express what inspires them is a precious thing, more so when adults engage in make-believe. Such adult play holds out for hope that we might still be inspired to imagine. I have yet to meet one L.A.R.P.er (live action role play/player) that didn’t make me smile, their dedication to the craft infectious.
To date, the greatest example I can think of where adults were more likely to act as children than the actual children present was when we vacationed at Universal Studios, Florida for the sole purpose of spending three days in the Harry Potter themed parks. It was my idea, actually. My last vacation had been five years earlier with my husband – on our honeymoon. We work hard, and time off isn’t always an option.
My idea of a relaxing vacation does not typically include cramming myself into a park of equally enthused Potter-heads (as we call ourselves), and yet I willing flew (I hate flying), spent five days in a family packed hotel (children were seen, smelled, and heard at all times), and jostled ourselves to and fro the hotel and theme park via shuttle bus. It was hot. Sticky. Loud. Scorching. But once you stand amidst the fantasy world that you have come to know and love over the years, none of the aggravating humanness matters. In fact, you welcome the people around you, minds blown by the books-turned-into-life. You’re suddenly glad you packed your wand even though you weren’t sure you should bring it. Cause ya’ know, you know you’re a dork, that doesn’t mean you want to let the world in on it. But no, now you’re glad you did as dorks unite. Spell battles run unchecked with equally excited Potter-heads.
These book inspired activities should not fail to remind us of the power of fiction. Stephen King is quoted as saying, “Book are uniquely portable magic.” Individually, avid fiction readers understand this meaning in its truest form. The fairs and theme parks, the role players inspired by centuries-old tales, it means accessing the same magical portal, at the same time. So pack your wand alongside your fairy wings, and take comfort in knowing that you will find yourself with like-minded spirits.